Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Anti-Semitism in New Zealand 

NZ parliament condemns anti-Semitic cemetery attacks

By The Associated Press
Haaretz Service http://www.haaretz.com/
WELLINGTON - New Zealand
Tue., August 10, 2004 Av 23, 5764

New Zealand lawmakers Tuesday unanimously condemned vandals who wrecked Jewish gravestones in two cemeteries and torched a Jewish prayer house in recent weeks.

The attacks on cemeteries in the capital, Wellington, described as the worst anti-Semitic acts in New Zealand history, saw scores of graves ransacked, with headstones smashed and desecrated.

In both incidents, three weeks apart, German Nazi swastika symbols were hacked into nearby lawns. The first, on July 16, came just hours after two Israeli men were imprisoned for passport fraud and labeled as Mossad spies by New Zealand's government.In a special parliamentary motion, lawmakers deplored the destructive attacks and expressed "unequivocal condemnation of anti-Semitism, violence directed against Jews, and Jewish religious and cultural institutions and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination."

The resolution will be sent to Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin with a record of the speeches by party leaders, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen said "there is no justification and no cause" for the revival of anti-Semitism in recent years in many countries around the world." "Let it be hoped that the recent vandalism is the work of an isolated crank or cranks. But given its nature it inevitably raises emotions and memories which are deep-seated and profound, especially for Jewish New Zealanders and many others as well," he said,. according to the Herald. "For the survivors of the holocaust, or those related to them, such actions as we have recently seen are particularly frightening and appalling.""They remind us how thin the veneer of tolerance and civilization can sometimes be, even in a country such as New Zealand," Cullen said.While noting that some explained the incidents as a result of the diplomatic conflict stemming from the passport fraud incident and the proposed visit by Holocaust denier David Irving, Cullin said, "The danger of entering into that area is that it gives some kind of rationale for something that is both evil and irrational, though sadly deep-seated in European culture."

National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said, while supporting the movement, that the incidents have "badly damaged New Zealand's reputation overseas," the Herald reported. ACT party leader Rodney Hide said his party wanted to go further and state its concern about anti-Israel sentiment, which he said was growing in the West, the Herald reported. "My party wholeheartedly supports the right of the state of Israel to exist," he said, according to the Herald. Meantime, security guards are on round-the-clock watch at all Wellington cemeteries as police continue inquiries into the attacks. No arrests have been made in either attack.

The controversial historian Irving, in an interview Tuesday with National Radio, offered a reward of U.S. $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the vandals.Irving had previously said that the "disordered members" of the local Jewish community might be responsible for the attack, a claim repeated by the New Zealand secretary of the National Front, the Herald reported.Irving, the author of nearly 30 books, including "Hitler's War," which challenges the extent of the Holocaust, wants to visit New Zealand to give a lecture, but the government has indicated it is unlikely to let him into the country.

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